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Shiva and Shaivism | Vira Shaivism

Vira Shaivism:

Vira Shaivism, also known as Lingayatism was either founded or revived by Basava or Basavanna in the 12th Century CE. The sect gained prominence in the Karnataka region due to his teachings and efforts. Through his poetry and teachings known as Vachanas (sayings or verses) Basavanna spread social awareness among his followers exhorting them to reject discrimination based upon caste, gender or economic status.

He introduced the practice of wearing lings around the neck as a mark of devotion to Shiva and to inculcate the need to live pious lives and adhere to the discipline and practice of self-purification. It also helped them to feel committed to the movement and cultivate feelings of brotherhood and belongingness.

Serving as the chief minister of a local ruler, he introduced the practice of organizing religious congregations in specially built spiritual halls known as anubhava mantapas, where people could assemble regardless caste and gender distinctions and express their love and devotion to Shiva or engage in contemplative practices or spiritual discussions.

Overtime, the Virashaivism came to be known as Lingayatism in Karnataka and adherent regions and the followers of the sect developed a distinct identity of their own as Lingayats. However, it may not be correct to consider both synonymous. At the best, we may conside Lingayatism as a subset of Virashaivism. While the broader sect remained confined to limited groups in different parts of India, Lingayatism thrived in the Vijayanagara empire ruled by the Rayas.

After India’s independence, some Lingayats wanted to have an identify of their own and become distinguished from both Hinduism and Virashaivism as a distinct community. However, it was rejected by others. However, Lingayatism is still considered a Hindu subsect, just as Virashaivism and other subsects of Shaivism.

Virashaivism is a theistic tradition. Their philosophy has elements of both dualism and dualism. Hence, it is considered qualified dualism, according to which the individual souls and the Supreme Self are similar in some respects and dissimilar in others. Adherents of the sect follow the path of devotion (bhaktimarg) to achieve liberation, considering it to be superior to all other paths.

They express their love devotion to Shiva, worshipping his numerous forms, images and symbols. They reject the mediation of priests in the worship and prefer to worship him directly. They also prefer to engage in domestic worship rather than temple worship and recite prayers in their mother tongue rather than Sanskrit.

Shiva and Shaivism | Vira Shaivism

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